Santos Okottah, the founder of Eziki:Santos Okottah, Eziki talks about: its online and mobile platform Eziki; the type of content it carries and the number of users; its citizen journalism app Reporta; how it works and the platforms it’s available on; and its use by a major Kenyan media house and an online wedding site called Samantha’s Bridal.
How Kenyan computer programmer coded thriving video streaming company
In 2009, the fibre optic cable arrived at the port of Mombasa. For Santos Okottah, this event would mark a new direction in his career.
At the time, the programmer was working at the Nation Media Group’s (NMG) digital division building micro sites, online ads and updating websites.
To Mr Okottah, the arrival of fibre meant that the capacity supplied would facilitate video streaming.
“I knew that the fibre optic cable meant that most Kenyans would get access to Internet and that cost of data would go down, making it affordable,” says Mr Okottah.
Less than a year later, he went on to found Eziki Limited, a company that offers video on demand and live streaming services.
DigitalBusiness meet him at the company’s office in Parklands, Nairobi. Mr Okottah talks slow and in bits; it seems he is processing his own words before he carries on with what he is saying.
The Maseno University graduate previously worked as a web designer at Insyder magazine before he joined NMG. Mr Okottah quit his programming job in 2010 to get into business fulltime. “It was a good job with several perks” he says chuckling. “My parents thought I was crazy when I quit! But I had seen a business opportunity I wanted to pursue,” Mr Okottah adds.
“When I was at Nation, I would see artistes coming to the building to try to get someone to promote their albums. My business idea was to make these artiste’s music available online for download. I got into a contract with some recording houses, like Calif Records, and put up some content.”
He explains how the firm would make money: “I would charge for adverts on the site and later by subscriptions. But the truth is, I never made any money from the site.”
One of his clients was AITEC, an IT exhibition organiser. Through networking with AITEC and by word of mouth, Mr Okottah saw the opportunity to offer clients a new service in video streaming.
“I started my business with Sh60,000,” Mr Okottah says quickly adding, “but I cannot tell you where that money went. I only remember buying a laptop.”
“You do not need cash to start a business and you do not need to go to school to learn how to be an entrepreneur. Technical skills are your capital. You learn how to be an entrepreneur by being an entrepreneur.”
Eziki offers two core services. There is video on demand and the live streaming. With video on demand, the content a client wants – video or music – has already been recorded and stored somewhere for them to access and replay whenever they want. They can also download it.
The second service is live streaming. Consider this: an event is happening right now, in any part of the world, and one cannot be there to catch it. Mr Okottah and his team use cameras, drones and other equipment to record the event and allow a client to watch it live on the Internet; from a phone, laptop or other device. The client has already paid for the service so it’s free his (client’s) target audience to view it.
Apart from live streaming events, Eziki allows users to listen to some radio stations via the Internet as if they were listening to it from their own radios at home. “We don’t generate our own content. Our focus is on making it available online at high quality,” says Mr Okottah.
Some of the notable clients Eziki has worked with are World Trade Organisation, UN Women, Exuviance (a Swedish firm in the beauty and skincare industry), Canal France International, MTV Shuga, Blankets and Wine, CITAM (Christ is the Answer Ministries), State House, Ministry of Land, among others.
When it comes to overheads and other costs, “The cameras and drones, we bought upgradeable equipment to give our clients high quality content and a 360-degree experience. Software and licences fees, those are a must with most renewable on an annual basis. We also pay for security, broadband and the cloud server,” says Mr Okottah.
“Eziki has cloud servers all around the world to make sure that the downlink doesn’t buffer. It’s one of our biggest expenses.”
‘‘The business has grown organically. “I have never taken a bank loan to finance the business’s growth. I have been ploughing back all our profits. Getting the working capital was one of the main challenges when we started. I had a seed investor who pulled out after releasing half the investment he had put his word into. It was Sh1.6 million.
‘‘Repaying that cash was one of the most trying times for me in the business. I got a friend on board who settled the advance in exchange for equity in the company. He’s now a profit-sharing partner.”
To make money, Mr Okottah explains that “Clients pay per event. It ranges between Sh 20,000 to Sh3 million. My plan for video-on-demand is to have a subscription model, at monthly rate of between Sh 10,000 and Sh200,000. This is where I want to grow the business.”